The Curse of the Shootout

Just like they did when they visited the St Pete Times
Forum on October 8th, the New Jersey Devils defeated the Tampa Bay
Lightning 2-1 after finishing regulation and overtime tied at one.

No matter
how hard they try, the Lightning just can’t score in a game-deciding shootout,
let alone win one.

“Well,
it’s a problem. We have to get the job done somehow,” Forward Ryan Malone said
as he sat in his locker room looking for an explanation to his team’s inability
to score. During the course of the shootout, the Bolts tried a variety of moves to
beat veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

First came defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who came oh-so-close
but hit the crossbar. Then came defenseman Jeff Halpern, who was turned away by
Brodeur. 0-for-2 at that point… and you could sense that everybody at the Forum
was thinking the same thing, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

In the meantime, Lightning
backup goaltender Antero Niittymaki was also shutting out the Devils.   

Forward Steven Stamkos, who scored Tampa Bay’s lone goal
of the day, was supposed to be the savior and had the chance to end the team’s
shootout woes, but his shot went wide right to prolong the suffering.   Forward
Vincent Lecavalier had the fourth shot, and he waited until the last second  for Brodeur to bite before missing his shot.

There are only so many opportunities you can allow to
pass you by before you pay for them, and the Devils did just that when David
Clarkson scored the only goal of the shootout and sunk the Lightning to 4-0-3
at home and 0-4 in shootouts this season.

The lack of execution in shootout situations for the Lightning is
baffling. Are they cursed? Are they in need of rally caps, like
Malone recently suggested? Or is it just the fact that they are having the bad
luck of encountering the worst possible goaltenders to try to score one-on-one
against?

“I don’t know. It’s baffling.” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said
after the game.

Think about it, during this season’s four shootout losses, the Bolts have
had to face Brodeur twice, and they have also had to face Buffalo Sabres
goaltender Ryan Miller, who currently has allowed only 15 goals in nine games,
the least in the entire Eastern Conference by a large margin. It is just a matter of time until the Lightning reverse their fortunes,
but in the meantime the team should think hard about that rally caps idea.

As far as the game in regulation went, the Lightning somehow came up with
a point in a game where they were outshot 40-19 and had no business being down
by only one goal after two periods of play.

Niittymaki spelled for starter Mike Smith and had 37 saves in an
impressive afternoon that could have been a whole lot worse if it wasn’t for
him.

“It would have been nice to steal [the game], but we didn’t deserve to
win. It was [Niittymaki] who earned us the point tonight,” Malone said.

Meanwhile, Stamkos continues to be on fire and scored his 10th
goal in 11 games in the third period after a shot that went through Brodeur’s
legs and snuck into the goal.

 The Lightning have to get over the
loss quickly, because they are getting their passports and heading into a
four-game, six-day road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators,
Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

According to Tocchet, the game in Philadelphia next Monday will dictate
whether the Bolts will carry any momentum from their 2-0-2 homestand.   

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